Regional Market Outlook on Legal Services

The global legal market size growth in 2017 is mostly contributed by North America followed closely by Europe. The increasing demand for specific practice areas like Banking, Finance and Securities, Mergers and Acquisitions, etc. has been a driving force for the global legal market while a growing trend of bringing parts of litigation work in-house is affecting the market revenues.

Drivers:

  • Practice Area Demand-Practice areas like finance and securities, M&As, and commercial services have been driving the global legal market over the past three years (2014-2017)
  • Law firm Mergers and Acquisitions-Mergers and Acquisitions of law firms have driven the market in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and they are expected to continue their momentum in 2018 as well
  • Rising Billing Rates-The billing rates, though are rising nominally, are contributing to the growth of legal market revenues

Constraints:

  • In-sourcing of Litigation work–Many of the corporate in-house counsels are insourcing parts of Litigation work (which claims almost half of the corporate legal budget), which is dampening the revenues of the law firm market and is expected to do the same in 2018 too
  • Unconventional legal service providers-With more and more non-law firms, like virtual law firms entering the legal market, though a diversification of the supplier base is happening, the overall legal market revenues are decreasing

European Legal Market Size and Growth, Drivers and Constraints

The BREXIT situation is one of the most important factors that has been influencing the European market for the past year, by affecting the demand for certain practice areas and eventually driving the overall market size.

Market Growth Drivers:

  • With the gradual realization of BREXIT, the European Union has been experiencing a rise in demand for specific practice areas like contract law, employment law, etc., which is driving the legal market at the moment
  • The uptick in debt capital market has boosted the legal market revenues, due to increase in demand for finance and securities practice area

Market Constraints:

  • Many non-traditional legal service suppliers like virtual law firms, temporary staffing agencies are occupying the market, leading to a fall in revenues for the erstwhile monopolistic law firms in the European market
  • A rising pressure on the law firms to adopt Alternative Fee Arrangements by the corporates has resulted in reduction of total law firm revenues, due to reduction in extra charges which is usually experienced in hourly billing

Key Legal Technology Trends observed in Europe

Technology is making rapid forays into diverse fields and the legal industry is no exception. Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools have started sharing the work-load in recent times in areas such as legal research, e-discovery, compliance, contract analysis, case prediction or document automation etc. and the rate of adoption is growing in Europe.

AI-Backed Contract Management Systems:

  • Description: AI is automating most of the complex contract management tasks performed by in-house legal teams. Using natural language processing, companies are developing end-to-end AI contract management technology to support the in-house legal teams in management of the full contract lifecycle including workflows, approvals and setting alerts and reminders for the business
  • Impact: The contract management system is successfully used for digital transformation contract management programs for in-house counsel in Europe. The move is expected to change the shape of the current pyramid of legal roles, as many companies try to replace the contract analysts with this technology

Regulatory Tools for Risk Management:

  • Description: As of May 2018, all organizations in EU will be required to comply with the new legal framework General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Impact: Many legal software solutions companies are launching low-cost platforms to assist law firms and in-house counsels to implement best-practice processes and mitigate the risk of the severe financial penalties that a breach of GDPR will bring

Outside Counsel Procurement and Management Platform:

  • Description: Corporates are collaborating with software providers to develop tailored platforms through which in-house teams can fast track procurement, track law firm expenditure and manage their work using single tool, which is typically done using spreadsheets and dashboards 
  • Impact: As the client requires legal expertise across a vast spectrum of business needs, this single platform which builds the feedback loop right into the process, offering greater efficiency and better service overall, is going to be advantageous

Tools to Help Understand the Implications of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill:

  • Description: Many of the rules affecting businesses in the UK come either directly from EU law or from domestic legislation that implements it. The European Union (Withdrawal) bill will define how the regulations that govern businesses post Brexit will affect the corporates. New software tools are being launched in order to help corporates understand the implications of the bill
  • Impact: Brexit changes UK’s relationships with EU and corporates with presence in UK will want to know how their legal and regulatory environment will change. This tool will explain how the European Union (withdrawal) Bill will deal with the specific legal instruments they corporates are concerned about

Supply Landscape

The European legal supplier market is constituted by global law firms- consisting of UK and US based international law firms and excel in many practice areas, boutique law firms–who provide niche services and are mostly local entities and other non-traditional legal service providers like LPOs, Virtual law firms, etc.

Global Law Firms:

  • The global law firms are the big brands, which have presence in the EMEA countries and cater to almost all the practice areas
  • These are the AmLaw and Magic Circle firms, which have entered the EMEA countries through mergers and acquisitions with local firms
  • For example: Allen & Overy LLP, Clifford Chance, etc.

Boutique Law Firms:

  • This category includes law firms offering specialized services in niche practice areas and are able to compete against the large global firms in providing specialized legal work, at competitive prices
  • These are started by well known attorneys and cater to very niche subject matters like local regulations and are preferred by the corporates for local law matters

Alternative Legal Service Providers:

  • This segment comprises of LPOs, legal arms of the Big 4 consulting firms, Virtual law firms, Staffing Agencies, etc.
  • These suppliers are in their growing phase of maturity in Europe and their adoption is rising by the day. These ALSPs are in their highest rate of adoption in countries like the US and at a lower rate of adoption in Middle East, Africa and LATAM

Evolving Sourcing Models

Sourcing Based on Negotiated Rates:

  • One-off discounts (One time discount)
  • Cost-effective service providers
  • Restrictive billing guidelines
  • Input based pricing model

Sourcing Based on Negotiated Service Agreements

  • Discounted rates across multiple projects
  • Efficient use of resources available with the law firms
  • Output based pricing model

Sourcing Based on Full Integration Contracts:

  • Contract with preferred legal providers
  • Law firms with Integrated knowledge systems and technology
  • Outcome based pricing model

Negotiation Levers

Outsourcing more work to niche law firms:

  • Procurement can outsource more work to niche law firms, specialized in the required practice areas, to avail cost benefits

Waiving off first year associate charges:

  • The charges for first year associates billed to a project can be waived off, as law firms usually utilize them at a substantially lower costs, with experience and exposure being the main objective

Utilizing historic billing data:

  • Procurement could utilize its legal department’s historic billing data. Any noticeable inconsistent increase in billing rates can be used as a negotiation strategy while engaging with law firms